The field is set, the paint is being applied to the diamonds and all systems are go for the 15th renewal of The Wiffle Ball Championships this weekend in New Carlisle.
"It's a full-week process," director Koby Keck said. "We got the schedule out Monday night, teams are tweeting out rosters. It's such a big complex, we get a couple fields done, and teams start popping up in the middle of the day, practicing."
A total of 70 teams are participating in the two-day event that starts Saturday on the set of fields at the town Little League complex with everybody shooting to reach the final four Sunday at Migley Field, the site of the semifinals and finals, beginning at 1:20 p.m. (Eastern time). There was a cap of 80 teams and Keck had to turn some away since they didn't get their entry in before the deadline.
"The schedule doesn't make itself," he said. "It's still a huge tournament. We used to draw it randomly out of the (Hometown) Cup trophy, now it's more seeded to try to make it a more enjoyable Saturday for everybody. There's a lot of mixing and matching with teams, so we look at the rosters. We weigh results from other tournaments probably the most."
Team Combat from Prior Lake, Minn., is making the longest trip, with the bulk of the teams coming from the New Carlisle and Chicagoland areas. Most of the out-of-town teams roll in Friday and enjoy the activities associated with the Hometown Days before Saturday's games.
Past champions include the Cult West Warriors (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017), Indianapolis-based Son of a Pitch (2016), Speedy's Chickenheads (2009), the Ambassadors of Plastic (2011) and the defending champion New Carlisle Newts, who claimed their third title last year.
"Probably one of our best players was gone last year, so this is our normal team," Keck said. "I don't want to jinx us, but we should be pretty good."
Saturday will feature 140 pool play games with the top 48 advancing to a single-elimination bracket Sunday. The winner will be hoisting the Hometown Cup sometime around 4 p.m. Chuck Freeby of 46 Sports in South Bend will be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and Broadcast Sports will be doing online coverage of the semifinals and the championships with a four-man crew that includes a field reporter.
In addition, a company in Elkhart will be providing use of a Jumbotron that will be erected beyond the fence in left field. Keck is hopeful that they will be able to set up a live feed on the big board. A Wayne Messmer rendition of the national anthem will precede the action with a Harry Caray rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game played during the fourth inning stretch.
"We've been wanting to do something like this since they put in the Jumbotron at Wrigley," Keck said. "There'll be some fun stuff."